Thursday, March 23, 2017

Outrageous Outgrowns: Fall 2017 Sale Tips

My Outrageous Outgrowns purchases from the
Spring 2012 sale -- Polo, Gap, Gymboree and more at
fantastic prices. No wonder I keep going back!

This Friday through Sunday, October 20-22, Outrageous Outgrowns -- the South Bay's largest kids' consignment sale -- is taking place at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. The sale is open from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. each day.

I love Outrageous Outgrowns. I've been to all but one of their biannual sales since October 2011, when I was 6 months pregnant with Toddler X, and I can't begin to count the wonderful deals I've gotten there, particularly on name-brand clothes, shoes, and toys. Now that I'm shopping for two kids, I'm particularly excited for the upcoming sale.

If you've never been to Outrageous Outgrowns -- well, it's quite an experience! You'll enjoy yourself more, and walk away feeling more satisfied with your purchases, if you know a few things in advance. Here are my top tips and tricks.

For those who have read my Outrageous Outgrowns tips for past years, much of what follows is the same. But there are two significant updates for this sale:

First, Outrageous Outgrowns will be hosting donation stations for CityTeam Ministries and those affected by the North Bay fires during all three days of the sale. 
  • The CityTeam bins are for donations of adult clothing and shoes, dishes, pots, pans, mugs, silverware, and blankets. Shoppers are encouraged to bring donations when they come to shop.
  • For the fire victims, Outrageous Outgrowns is collecting school supplies for kids, as well as gift cards (Kohls, Target, Walmart, JcPenny, TJ Maxx, Visa, Mastercard, Applebee's, BJ'S, Fast Food, Round Table), cash, and checks (payable to St. Mark's Lutheran Church ) for fire victims.
And second, hooray! The fairgrounds have finally caught up with modern technology -- you no longer need to PRINT the parking discount voucher (see link) that brings the cost to $5 per car. Just show your phone at the gate.

Besides that, it's the standard great shopping, with huge discounts on tons of items for babies, kids, tweens, and expecting moms. Have fun!

Planning Ahead

Planning ahead for this sale is surprisingly important when it comes to having a good experience. If this is your first time at OO, you will be shocked when you see its magnitude -- it's HUGE! It can also get very crowded and very overwhelming if you don't come up with a game plan in advance.

I think the people who have the best experiences at OO are at one of two extremes: they are either very prepared (know what they need, what to prioritize, what sizes/what seasons they're looking for, and what they're willing to pay) or completely relaxed about the whole thing (just going to check it out and browse -- no real needs, happy to get some deals, but really just going for the experience). 

Most people, though, start out somewhere in between -- "I need some pants, probably 24 months or 2T, maybe some toys, and I'll just judge whether it's a good deal when I get there." Those people arrive and find themselves dazed and confused among the crowds and extensive offerings; they end up grabbing things they don't need or missing things they do need, passing up great deals or picking up items that are overpriced.

While the uber-prepared probably already know this stuff, and the uber-relaxed don't really care, here are my plan-ahead tips for the average shopper:
  • Evaluate your child's wardrobe in advance. Nothing is worse than coming home from a sale, pleased with the great deals you got on 6 different pairs of shorts in size 3T, only to discover that you already have 8 pairs of perfectly good 3T shorts at home. In the midst of a sale, it's really hard to visualize your child's whole closet and dresser (particularly clothes you already have for the next size up), and you can waste a lot of time trying to remember how much of each item he or she already has.

    To avoid rash decisions and move through the racks faster and more efficiently, take some time before the sale to dig through your child's stuff and determine what you're looking for at the sale -- and what you're not looking for. I like to make a list of things I do need (last sale, for Toddler X: nice t-shirts, pajamas, swim trunks; for Baby X, sun hats, hair bows, a swimsuit, and one of those pool floater things) and things I don't need (last sale: sweatshirts for Toddler X; anything other than what's listed above for the baby). I make myself promise not to buy anything in the "don't need" category, prioritize things in the "need" category, and leave myself open to anything else.
  • Figure out what sizes you need. If I've discovered anything as a parent, it's that sizes in children's clothing mean absolutely nothing. Toddler X had a pair of shorts that he still wore at 2 1/2 that were marked 6-12 months. He has two pairs of Gap shorts that I bought him in 4T -- the size he wears in Gap jeans and pants -- that are FAR too big to wear right now. Gap polo shirts are long and lean on him, Janie and Jack polo shirts are short and boxy, Polo polo shirts are just right. We have two pairs of similar Carter's pajamas, in exactly the same size, for which the pants differ by at least 1 1/2 inches in length, with one pair far baggier than the other. Throw in European brands like Hanna Andersson, with their crazy 70-80-90 cm. sizing, and you're just lost.

    So what should you do? One option is to find one or two items of clothing in your child's wardrobe that fit just right, and bring them along with you as sizing guides. I generally have Toddler X try on a couple of t-shirts to find one that's the right length and width, and use that for sizing all t-shirts and polo shirts -- I know that I'll need that size if I'm shopping for something current, or bigger (but in the same proportions) if I'm shopping for something in the next size. I do the same with a pair of pants -- find one that's the right length, and be sure to only buy things that length or longer. It's no fun to come home from a sale with a bunch of clothes in your child's size that don't actually fit.

    Another option for pants -- what I'm doing at this sale, because I'm hoping to carry less around with me -- is to measure the inseam of a perfect pair of pants, then measure off that length of ribbon, and bring that along. Don't spend your time measuring while you're in the aisles of clothing -- try to just eyeball if you can -- but once you've made your picks and moved off to the side of the building, the ribbon can be a great way to confirm that the pants you've picked are long enough.
  • Have an idea of what you're willing to pay. This is an important one. When you get to the sale, you'll discover that everything looks like a good deal when compared to full retail price -- as it should, because it's (usually) used! (You will occasionally find new pieces mixed in.) It's easy to get carried away -- these pajamas are only $5, I should buy 4 pairs! -- but it's worth having an idea of what retail is and what kind of sales you can get on new retail items to determine if a certain price is really a good buy. For example, with the frequent Carter's sales -- and particularly if you get coupons as well -- you can often get new pj's for $7 or so. But Tea or Boden items -- which often retail for $30 or more -- for a sub-$8 price are usually deals you want to jump on. Knowing that helps you decide if the used ones are a great deal or not.
  • If possible, arrange for childcare. Seriously, you will have a MUCH better experience at this sale if you do not have your kids with you. I've only taken Toddler X once, to the spring 2012 sale when he was about 8 weeks old and asleep in a carrier, and even that was kind of a hassle -- it's hard to squeeze through crowds, reach for things, or lift heavy items with a baby on you. A toddler, I imagine, would be even harder. Unless you have a complete angel who will sit in a stroller calmly for an hour or more, not try to run away or duck under racks, not try to pull down clothes up above, not try to take every toy he can see, and not have a meltdown in a very long line, I'd recommend trying to find someone to take care of him or her while you visit the sale. If you can't, you can't, but do plan ahead for entertainment while you shop. (They do have an enclosed kids' area at the sale, but you can't just leave your kid there while you shop --it's a good place for him or her to hang out while you sort through potential purchases, though, so if you can't find a babysitter, be sure to find this spot.)
  • Decide when you want to visit. I've shopped several times at the Thursday evening sellers' sale, many times on Friday morning at opening, and a few times on Sunday for the 1/2 price sale (most remaining items are reduced to half price). Obviously the Thursday evening sellers' sale is preferable, but you have to register to be a consignor at OO in order to shop then (or make friends with someone who is a consignor and volunteer, and who therefore gets an extra ticket). As a consignor this year, I'm excited to be there on Thursday night.

    For events where I wasn't able to shop on Thursday, I have always come on Friday morning, first thing. The doors open at 9:00, but the line starts forming over 1/2 hour earlier. People take this shopping thing seriously. :) If you arrive a bit after 9, you'll be able to just walk in without a line. If it's not critical to you to be one of the first people in, you might as well wait until 9:15.

    While Friday morning gives you the most sale options, it also produces a HUGE checkout line, beginning maybe an hour to an hour and a half after the doors open. With hundreds of people arriving at around 9:00, at around 10:00 the checkout line starts to build, and by 10:30 or 11, it can be 45 minutes to an hour long, and can stay that way through early afternoon. Because of this, I highly recommend prioritizing your purchases (based on my list system above); get your shopping done quickly, and keep an eye on the line. When you see it start to turn the corner, by all means, get moving! I've heard that there is often a lull in the afternoon, so again, if it's not critical for you to have the widest selection, perhaps consider visiting a bit later in the day.

    I haven't visited on a Saturday, so I can't chime in there, but on Sundays, I haven't found the lines to be overwhelming. The items are, not surprisingly, pretty picked over by that point, but I've found some good deals on items that are 1/2 price. The crowds are more staggered throughout the day, so you probably won't be looking at an hour long line. This is a great day to find really good deals on things like pajamas or basic t-shirts to wear for art projects or outdoor play.
  • Consider bringing some sort of carrier for your items. When you arrive at OO, they give you huge, Ikea-style bags to use for shopping purposes, but for some people, that's not enough space (and, if you load it up as I do, it can be quite a tug on your arm). I've seen people bring wagons, strollers, even those little shopping carts people use at farmers' markets, to haul their goodies while they shop. I find it hard to navigate one of those things through the aisles of clothing racks, so I prefer to just do the bags, but it's worth considering.

    Also, they don't let you take the big bags home at the end of the event (unless you want to buy it), so you may want to bring your own reusable bags to help you get your goods out to the car.
  • Wear comfy shoes. I sound like your mom, huh? But really, the space is large, the floors are very hard, and between shopping and standing in line, you may very well be there for two hours. Don't worry about looking cute -- go with comfy today.

At the Sale
  • Have an idea of the layout. The layout will change sale to sale, but pause for a moment as you enter and try to get the gist of where the items you're looking for might be. At recent sales, clothes have been to the left as you enter -- divided into boys/girls areas and separated by size, but not by type of clothes (i.e., pants, pjs, tops, etc. are all in the same place); shoes, "big ticket" items (bikes, wagons, strollers), and even bigger items (furniture, play kitchens) have been towards the center-right. Books, toys, and decor have historically been to your right.
  • Prioritize! Certain things seem to go very quickly at these sales -- notably, the "big ticket" items that are attractively priced (sellers determine their own prices, so you could find nearly identical strollers priced $20 apart -- well-priced large items will go fast!). People also seem to grab the good shoes quickly. I wouldn't focus on books or basic toys (unless there's something very specific you want) at the outset -- books take too long to go through, and for the toys, you'll often find 20 of a single popular item, so there's no real rush. Look for any big items you specifically want, then check out shoes or clothes.
  • Be aware of the holding area. This is a "secret" that isn't really a secret, but something I didn't know about for my first few OO visits. There is a check-in "holding" area at the sale -- usually at the rear of the building, opposite the entrance. If you pick up a larger item -- a play kitchen, a crib, whatever -- or just find your clothing bag is getting too heavy, you can take it over there and have them hold it for you as you continue your shopping. It is SO much better than lugging a tricycle through the aisles. You simply pick up your item as you pass by toward checkout.
  • Pay attention to clothing size sections. This will be less relevant as you get into sizes like 2T and 3T, but I noticed for the younger sizes that similarly sized items could be found in different areas. For example, with items sized 12-18 months, sometimes I would find them in the section for 12 months, and sometimes in the section for 18 months. If that's the size you're looking for, be sure to check in both sections.
  • Grab items that look good to you. If you shop at a crowded time (like Friday morning), the aisles between the clothing racks will be packed with shoppers, strollers, wagons, and all other manner of creatures and conveyances. You will be passing and getting passed from all directions, and it's kind of chaotic. This isn't the place to stop to compare two items to each other, or to really contemplate your purchase. If it looks like something you would want, grab it, put it in your bag, and keep moving. After you've gotten through the section, you can pull aside and sort through your bag, keeping the things you actually want to buy. In fact, they have sorting tables and discard racks set aside for that purpose. And keep in mind that, with heavy crowds, if you skip an item, there's a good chance that it will be gone by the time you come back.
  • Glance through the sections for the opposite gender. I don't usually do this because I'm in a rush to get to the line before it gets too long, but at last fall's sale, I strolled through the girls' section after wrapping up my shopping in the boys', and lo and behold, I found one of the most adorable and best deals I've ever gotten at OO: like new Hanna Andersson green and white striped Christmas pajamas for $6! The pjs were clearly unisex, but the seller had used them for a girl, and therefore marked them for the girls' section. (Note that there's no unisex section, so people tend to just place their unisex items under whatever section they personally used it for.) If you have free time, check out both sections to ensure that you've found all the great deals.
  • Check items thoroughly before purchasing. OO does its best to ensure that the items it allows on the floor are clean, free of holes and stains, with all their buttons and pieces and whatnot, but things can get missed and sometimes, in the warehouse-ish light of the fairgrounds building, it's hard to see things like stains. Don't forget to do a FULL check of all your items before making your final purchase. Hold them up in the light, ask someone else for their opinion, do whatever it takes to make sure that the item is in the condition you want, because once you purchase, there are no returns.
  • Have a smartphone ready to check toy prices. With the blog and my toy list, I'm pretty attuned to the toy market, particularly for nice Hape, Melissa and Doug and Green Toys toys, but I was still happy to have my phone with me at past sales to check the retail prices on a few items before deciding to purchase. I've scored "like new" Green Toys trucks for $5 and $7, as well as a Melissa and Doug latches board and a couple of puzzles for less than a quarter of retail. For those not as sure what toys are priced at usually, it makes sense to look up the retail cost to compare to the offerings at OO.
  • Sort your purchases while you're in line. If you see the line start to grow particularly onerous, remember that you can sort through your purchases, to some degree, while you're in line. You won't have tables to lay things out, and you'll have to keep moving forward to keep your place, but if you're deciding between two jackets, you can take your time comparing as you inch along. Right before the registers, they have racks for things that people decide they don't want, so you can abandon extra items there. As a courtesy to all those in the long line behind you, though, do determine what you are buying before you get to the actual register.
So that's it -- my tips for getting the best deals and having the best possible experience at Outrageous Outgrowns! I have gotten a huge percentage of Toddler X's clothing at this sale over the past few years, and I really enjoy the "challenge" of finding great deals there (which is pretty funny and ironic, because I'm not at all a bargain shopper or couponer in general -- there's just something about this sale!). I hope you have a good experience too, and I'm totally open to adding any tips readers might have, so contribute away!

Happy shopping!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the tips! I've been a few times before (always on Saturday--none of the crazy crowds you mentioned) but I appreciated the reminder and suggestions for making the trip effective and efficient. I even took pictures of the kids' wardrobes to be sure I got only what I needed.


Hmm...what to do today?